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Character Analysis of Roger Chillingworth In The Scarlet Letter

Liars, hypocrites, frauds, cheaters, adulterers, imposters, sinners, and gossipers, no one would ever suspect these types of people live in the perfect Puritan town of Boston. At first glance, Boston seems as if it’s a city set on a hill because everyone is so righteous and religious. It seems like everyone in the town is perfect besides Hester. She is criticized and looked down on because she has a scarlet letter “A” on her chest. Even though Hester is the only one with a visible scarlet letter, many other hypocritical citizens deserve scarlet letters on their chests for something or another. For example, Roger Chillingworth should have worn a letter “K” on his chest for kleptomaniac because he is constantly trying to steal Reverend Dimmesdale’s life away. He is so obsessed with ruining his life it seems like he has a mental disorder.

The first signs of Roger’s kleptomaniac behaviour were first recognized when some citizens noticed something ugly and evil taking over his face. Roger is constantly with Reverend Dimmesdale wherever he goes; it’s like they are attached at the hip. First, he tries to become friends with the Reverend and then he begins to pry into him like a bloodthirsty leech. Rogers pesters him all the time with questions about guilt and confession that eat away at Dimmesdale. Hawthorne says, for example, he digs into the poor clergyman’s heart, “like a miner searching for gold; or, rather, like a sexton delving into a grave”(Hawthorne 117). He is constantly trying to convince Dimmesdale to confess and would dig to a dead man’s grave to find any information about him. Roger’s digging evolves into a “fierce and terrible fascination” as he becomes more and more obsessed with exposing his secret; it eventually takes over his life as well as the Reverend’s(117). The fact that Roger would go to such extremes to destroy Reverend Dimmesdale proves he is a true Kleptomaniac.

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Roger’s Kleptomaniac tendencies are seen again when he was snooping around Dimmesdale’s reading area. The Reverend had fallen asleep reading when Roger came in and immediately laid his had on his bosom and thrust aside his robe. Roger turned around with a “wild look of wonder, joy, and horror”(Hawthorne 126). He was so overjoyed with what he found he jumped up and down with satanic joy, “throwing his arms toward the ceiling, and stamped his foot upon the floor”(126). Roger’s actions show how overly passionate he is about revealing Reverend Dimmesdale’s secret. Chillingworth finds so much pleasure from seeing Reverend Dimmesdale suffer, that Hawthorne says his facial expressions look as if the devil has taken over his body. He loves making the Reverend hurt inside because of the evil that has little by little taken over his body. Over time the only thing Roger can find happiness in is the Reverend’s pain. Roger finds so much joy from uncovering blackmail on Dimmesdale it eventually becomes the centre of his life. Just like how stealing is what a kleptomaniac’s life revolves around, stealing Reverend Dimmesdale’s life is what Roger’s life revolves around.

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Another characteristic of Roger that resembles a kleptomaniac is how he can never be pleased or satisfied. No matter how unhappy Reverend Dimmesdale is Roger is never content. He has to constantly make him suffer and hurt more. Hester is sick of watching Chillingworth make Dimmesdale die a living death and she finally gets up the nerve to ask Roger, “Hast thou not tortured him enough?”(Hawthorne 156). She feels guilty because she knows she is somewhat responsible for the Reverend’s suffering. Roger responds to Hester with a mean, “No-no! He has but increased the debt!” even though Roger has almost caused the Reverend to die, nothing is ever enough(156). Chillingworth will never be satisfied with tormenting Dimmesdale until his secret is revealed. He will do anything to make the Reverend endure pain no matter what the cost. The fact that Roger is persistently trying to take away Reverend Dimmesdale’s life confirms he could have without question worn a letter “K”.

Roger Chillingworth never officially wore a scarlet letter on his chest, but his sins were serious enough he should have. At first, Roger seems like a saint helping the popular Reverend feel better, but as the book goes on you see that’s not what his intentions are. He begins to develop kleptomaniac behaviour and intern making Reverend Dimmesdale suffer is all his life revolves around. He digs and digs into the Reverend’s personal space and persistently tries to pry out his secrets. When he finally finds a small secret concerning Dimmesdale he overreacts with so much passion he is said to have been taken over by the devil. Just like Roger, kleptomaniacs are obsessed with stealing, even if they don’t need what they stole.

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Overtime Chillingworth becomes more and more like a kleptomaniac because he is obsessed with stealing Reverend Dimmesdale’s life and doesn’t acquire any benefits from it. If Hester had to wear a shameful letter “A” for her life Roger more than deserves to as well. Chillingworth’s perfect punishment would be making him wear a scarlet letter “K” for the rest of his life because he is a liar, cheater, fraud, imposter, and worst of all is he continued to take away the Reverend’s life until he finally passed away.

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Character Analysis of Roger Chillingworth In The Scarlet Letter. (2021, Mar 02). Retrieved March 24, 2023, from